Your teeth are covered in a hard outer layer of enamel, and as tough as it is, it's not indestructible. Grinding your teeth, brushing with too much force and consuming acidic foods can all cause it to wear away, leaving you with sensitive teeth as a result.
If your dentist has mentioned enamel erosion to you, or you're simply concerned about your teeth's health, one of the best things you can do is minimize the amount of acidic fluids you ingest. Choosing the following non-acidic drinks over indulgences such as soda, coffee and alcohol won't help remineralize your enamel, but won't damage it either, which can save you from the discomfort of tooth decay down the line.
Although fresh milk is slightly acidic – with a pH of 6.7 (7 is neutral) according to the International Livestock Research Institute – it's actually one of the best drinks out there for protecting and strengthening your teeth's enamel. Dairy is great for your teeth for a few reasons. First, it's high in calcium, which happens to be the main component of enamel. If you're starting to see early signs of acid erosion on your teeth, drinking milk with your meals can help remineralize weakened enamel before it's gone for good.
A recent study by the American Dental Association (ADA) also looked at the effects that certain beverages had on the acid levels of dental plaque in the mouth after people consumed a sweet treat. When those participating in the study drank milk after eating a sugary cereal, they had the lowest levels of acid 35 minutes after eating and drinking.
What if you can't drink milk? Although soy milk might seem like a decent substitute, the Journal of Dentistry suggests it's just not the same thing. The journal's study found that drinking soy milk increased the acidity of the plaque bacteria 10 minutes after drinking it. If you're looking for non-acidic drinks to lessen enamel erosion, it's best to stick with dairy milk.
Milk might do your body good, but it's not the only drink available if you want to avoid enamel erosion. Plain old tap water is another good pick. Although it doesn't have the enamel-building calcium you'll find in milk, most public water supplies contain fluoride, which plays a major part in strengthening tooth enamel, and because it doesn't contain sugar, water doesn't put you at any risk for tooth decay in the process. As the British Dental Health Foundation points out, it's simply the best drink for your teeth.
A cup of tea – hold the sugar – can also be a good pick for your teeth. A small Japanese study noted that men who drank green tea daily had lower incidences of gum disease due to its antioxidant content. This positive effect is specifically due to catechin, one type of antioxidant that treats bacteria-related inflammation. Along with being a good source of antioxidants, tea also tends to be high in polyphenols and fluoride, both of which the University of Rochester notes for their ability to keep your teeth's enamel strong and protected against erosion and decay.
You do want to focus on consuming non-acidic drinks, but there may still be a time when you feel like having a glass of wine, soda or some coffee. And that's OK – even if acid erosion is high on your list of concerns, you don't necessarily need to cut those beverages out of your life completely. Instead, enjoy them in moderation, preferably alongside a meal. Remember, you can use a straw to drink them, limiting the contact the acid has with your teeth. Rinsing your mouth with water or even milk at the end of the meal can also keep the surface of your teeth nice and strong.
Keep in mind that even the lowest-acid diet isn't a substitute for brushing twice a day and flossing daily. If you're concerned about losing enamel, you can also start brushing with a fluoride toothpaste like Colgate® Enamel Health™ Multi-Protection Toothpaste which helps to replenish the natural calcium and strengthen your smile. Your dentist might recommend additional treatments, such as a fluoride varnish, to further strengthen your teeth and protect your enamel.